If you’re building an e-commerce Web site, your ability to control how it looks, the way it feels to the user, and how it works can be limited by your choice of “storefront” or “shopping cart” software.
These are the most important elements of an online retail site. They provide customers with a secure environment where they can load up their electronic shopping cart with your products, then pay for them at “checkout” without fear that their privacy and personal information – especially credit card numbers and other financial data – are at risk.
Even if you’re not planning retail capabilities on your business Web site, we highly recommend going through this step and reconsidering. It can give you a big edge over competitors with an information-only Web presence.
We cover what you need to know in:
- Storefront Software Packages
- Shopping Cart 101
- Amazon.com: The Gold Standard
- When to Hire a Pro
Storefront Software Packages
Many providers offer all-in-one “turnkey” storefront software that promises to handle all of your business Web site needs, and it probably does – to a point.
While it may include a variety of design templates and other graphics to give your site its look (some free, some for added cost), you’re limited to what’s offered unless you know enough about writing code to alter the templates.
It might not include all the functions you want, and may even be written in the provider’s own combination of codes, again making it tough to customize without technical expertise.
Besides flexibility in design and function, these are some other important features to look for:
- Growth Potential. Can the software grow with your business? Does it limit the number of products you can add to your Web site?
- Special Offers. Just like brick-and-mortar stores, will it allow you to offer easy-to-use coupons, gift certificates, gift wrapping and other customer incentives?
- Cross-selling. Does it include an option to automatically show products that are related to those already in your customer’s cart, and make it easy to add them to their purchase? This can be a significant boost to your sales.
- Marketing. Does it include newsletter, e-mail, guestbook, blogging, affiliates linking and other marketing tools?
- Top Sellers. Is it easy to highlight top-selling products on the home page, and allow shoppers to buy from there?
- Track Sales and Manage Inventory. The best storefront and shopping cart designs include analytics for tracking sales, customer behavior on your site and other vital data, as well as automatic inventory management.
- Volumes Sales/Wholesale. Does it allow you to offer volume pricing and/or wholesaling?
- SEO. Be sure it can optimize your site for search engines. The best packages include a function that generates search keywords and meta tags based on your content.
- Feedback: Encouraging customers to write reviews and comments is good for business, as are their testimonials about your excellent service, prices and quality.